Fenlander: A great day for democracy
SO young people don’t care about politics? Don’t you believe it.
In what has become an annual fixture in Fenland District Council’s calendar, students from four schools joined councillors, senior FDC staff and two PCSOs for a lively and challenging “Democracy Day” in which they debated key issues affecting Fenland and beyond.
The event was organised by Fenland’s Youth District Council at the Boathouse in Wisbech. The participants included 45 students from Neale-Wade, Cromwell and Sir Harry Smith Community Colleges and Wisbech Grammar School and nine FDC councillors - Cllrs Alan Melton, Kit Owen, Steve Garratt, Gavin Booth, Michael Humphrey, Ken Mayor, Alex Miscandlon and Michael and Virginia Bucknor.
The day culminated in an entertaining and wide-ranging “speed dating” session in which all the adults were put on the spot for an hour by their young inquisitors.
Questions ranged from the serious such as “What do you see as the biggest issues affecting young people in Fenland?” and “How can FDC work closer with young people?” to the more surreal, such as one put to Cllr Garratt: “If you had to describe yourself as an animal beginning with M, what would it be?” (His response: “A mouse: very busy but going about my business very quietly.”)
During earlier “backchat” sessions, the students discussed key concerns such as bullying, ways in which people’s self-esteem and aspirations could be raised and how to engage more young people in the democratic process. They also looked at what extra activities needed to be provided for Fenland’s young people to improve their community and reduce antisocial behaviour.
Their views are being fed back to the YDC and used to inform its action plan over the next year.
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The day also featured a “voting workshop” that gave an introduction to different systems of government and decision-making and led on to a role play session in which they had to play the part of councillors faced with having to make a tricky decision.
Cllr Garratt, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for young people, said: ”Once again the YDC’s Democracy Day has been an inspiring event which has demonstrated how much our young people have to offer. All those who took part showed themselves to be bright, willing to learn and keen to play their part in shaping Fenland’s future.
“It was genuinely heartening to them take such an interest in politics. As a council, we take their views very seriously and the challenge for all of us is how to ensure that their voices are heard both through their involvement with the YDC and out in the wider community.”